By Josh Brown
PIQUA — One-stroke gaps were the order of the day at the annual Covington Pink Out Tournament.
And while Tippecanoe’s Tori Merrick missed medalist honors by a single shot, the Red Devils claimed the team victory by the same margin.
Tippecanoe’s girls golf team shot a total team round of 356 Wednesday at Echo Hills to win the tournament, while the Troy Trojans — who defeated the Devils and won last year’s Pink Out — were right behind in second with a 357.
The Devils, who graduated their top scorer from the previous season for the second year in a row, turned in solid scores up and down the lineup. Tori Merrick shot an 80 — second only to Fort Loramie’s Emily Knoff, who was medalist with a 79. Ally Chitwood shot a 90 and was ninth individually, Sammie Rowland shot a 92 and Taylor Hudson shot a 94 to round out the scoring, with Lydia Steuve adding a 110 and Emily Doll a 133.
Last year, Erika Brownlee shot an 81 for medalist honors. Merrick shaved seven strokes off of last year’s round, as did Chitwood, and Rowland and Hudson were both over 100 last season — a marked improvement from the entire lineup.
“Our seniors have played for three years now. They’ve gone to the big matches and played in the big stuff,” Tippecanoe coach Scott Murray said. The Devils have placed fifth and sixth, respectively, in the last two Division II state tournaments. “These girls have gone from being role players to now, where if they want to win, they’ve got to be the ones to do it. But they’ve always had someone to learn from up to now, and they’re ready.
“We’re going to be a lot better three weeks from now. The kids came out today and just tried to play solid — and we shot a 372 here last year, so 356 is pretty good. But here in a couple weeks, we’ll be a better team. We’re going to have a good year.”
Tippecanoe will travel to Reid Park Friday for the preseason Central Buckeye Conference Tournament.
Troy, which shot a 366 to win last year’s Pink Out, improved as well despite graduating its top two scorers from a season ago.
Three Trojans were in the top 10, with Lindsey Black leading the way in third with an 82 — a full 13 shots better than last year’s round. Ali Helman was fourth overall with an 86, Hannah Wright shot a 90 for eighth individually and Natalie Henson rounded off the scoring with a 99. Brooke Beeler shot 111 and Mel Henson shot 115.
Helman’s round was five strokes better than last year’s score, while Wright’s was an 18-stroke improvement — but the best sign for Troy may be being one shot off of a team the caliber of Tippecanoe.
“It’s a very good sign,” Troy coach Matt Wibbeler said. “I was really happy with the way LeeAnn and Ali played, and Hannah was right there, too. Penalties cost us today, though. We need to work on course management a little more.”
For first year coach Wibbeler, it was only the third day of having the whole team together, but with them all being seniors, they’ve been busy working regardless.
“They’ve all done really well working on their own,” he said. “But this was really the first time many of them have gotten a full 18 holes in in a competitive environment. It was good to see the way we battled through the course, forgot the bad shots and kept battling out of trouble.”
Friday will be Wibbeler’s first look at the competition in the Greater Western Ohio Conference as the team heads to Beechwood for the preseason GWOC Tournament.
“The girls have the experience already, so it’s not going to affect them. But for me, it’ll be a whole new experience,” Wibbeler said. “It’ll be a chance to get to know the other teams and see how they compete against us and each other.”
The biggest improvement came from Miami East. Last year, the young team shot a 469 — but with a year of experience under their belts, the Vikings posted a 384 on Wednesday, good for fourth place. Kenton Ridge was third with 378.
Megan Pettit led the Vikings with a 92, Kiera Fellers shot a 93 — a 12-shot improvement — Megan Thompson improved by 23 strokes and shot 99, Maggie Bergman also knocked off 23 strokes by shooting 100 and Haley Howard improved by 12 shots with a 107.
“Last year when we pulled in here, it was a lot of these girls’ first time. Today when we pulled in, there was a sense of confidence, no nerves at all,” Miami East coach Bruce Vanover said. “They played relaxed, and that was the big thing, just having that year of experience.
“Our scores were where I thought they should be. What we did last year that hurt us was when we had a bad shot, we thought the hole was over. When we had a bad hole, we thought the round was over. Today, if someone shot a 10, they would come right back and shoot a 5 on the next hole. If we can do that all year, we’ll have a good year. That’s what I saw on the course today — maturity.”
Piqua’s girls shot a 440. Cassidy Kraft led the Indians with a 97, Anna Klopfenstein shot 110, Sarah Ganger shot 111, Kelsey Bachman shot 122, Korren Evans shot 128 and Skylar Sloan shot 138.
Host Covington shot a 501. Addison Metz and Kelsey McReynolds shot 111s to lead the way, Sydney Blanton shot 136, Megan Alexander shot 143, Emily Thompson shot 148 and Noelle Gast shot 161.
Contact Josh Brown at (937) 552-2132, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.